Thursday, February 2, 2017

Sundance Again!

I got the pin this year. I thought it was coming next year.
I'm not arguing with them. They even put it in the yearbook.
So, as we were fed one bit of distressing news after another that are all designed to make us jump up and demonstrate no matter what the weather, I took more than a week to volunteer at the Sundance Film Festival. I got my 10 year pin this year! Yeah. And the jacket was reversable like last year, this time dark gray and bright yellow. My friend Jan says she can use it now.

This year we got lots of really good swag.
Two different water bottles.
A nice travel backpack.
Lots of good snacks.

I just want to try to ignore that man in Washington for awhile (impossible, of course), so I just decided to publish my annual report about Sundance. We were all told not to write "reviews" during the festival, so I didn't put out any information publicly at all. But now that it is finished, I have some friends who want my annual report so they can be on the lookout for good things in film throughout the year. I thought I might as well share it more widely.

Keep in mind I am not a professional critic. All I will tell you is what I saw and liked (or didn't) plus the informal talk about what patrons and other volunteers  had seen. Take it for what you will. You will need access to the film list in order to make sense of the titles because I don't take the time to describe much about what the films are about.

I didn’t see that many films myself, but I will tell you about what I did see. Also the weather was terrible for most of the week, and at least 3 days I did not go out at all. I had picked out films that I had thought would be beneficial to see, but not necessarily entertaining ones (like a choice between two different docs about Syria one evening), but when it came down to getting bundled up and going out into a snow storm around supper time without having actually eaten supper or staying home and being warm and cozy and eating supper  …. well being educated about Syria lost out. Maybe you can understand that kind of decision.

This year I really liked all the films I did see completely. Most, I think, will go into major distribution, so you should be able to see these sooner or later if you want.. I saw all the way through the following:

Chasing Coral – see this one on the big screen if you can. Already picked up by Netflix. Everything about it was great. At the Q&A the scientists got standing ovations. I'm guessing that does not happen that often for oceanographers.

Icarus – you may think you don’t have any interest in a film about doping in sports, but you will especially as the major “plot” line takes an unusual turn. See this one for sure.

Winnie – a good documentary about Winnie Mandela. Not an outstanding bit of film making, but very informative. I suspect this one will be on PBS TV.

Look and See – I’m not sure if this one will get good distribution or not, but it’s a beautifully lyrical film about one of the best authors on the planet, Wendell Berry. Anything by or about Berry is well worth everyone’s time and attention. As someone in the film said either you have never ever heard of Wendell Berry (who?) or you practically worship his typewriter. I'm in the later camp.

The Novitiate – A beautiful film about young women entering a cloistered convent right at the time of Vatican II. Great photography, writing and acting all round. This one was bought by I can’t remember who so will get distributed.

Their Finest – BBC produced this one so it will be seen somewhere, maybe on PBS. An excellent film about making propaganda films during the time of the Blitz in WW II London. As always, the BBC does good sets and costumes and has excellent actors. This has good writing and a plot with surprises.

Frantz – I’m not sure if this one will be seen or not in the US because it is a French & German film with subtitles. This was the film I liked the least because it is rather stylized and “stiff.” It hinges on the plot which takes several twists and is about a triangle between three young people set right after the end of WW I (spring – fall 1919) in both France & Germany. But if you can see it, I would say go for it.

I also did not stay to see 3 different films completely. All were late night ones while I was working. I saw the beginnings, but decided I was just too tired, and it was too late at night to stay the whole time. These were:

L.A Times – actually I left because I did not like or care about the characters. This had some amusing writing, but the people were all rather privileged white folks in their 30s whom I found to be pretty universally annoying rather than sympathetic.

Crown Heights – this one won awards, and most people who saw it liked it. I had to watch it standing up not sitting down, and my legs just gave out on me, so I quit at th etime we were real deep into prison scenes. I think this is in the category of films that one “should” see which is not the same thing at all as a film you will enjoy. I could tell it was well made, though. Decide for yourself if it is the kind of film you like to see.

Call Me by Your Name – This one I think I would like to go back and re-visit while sitting down. It was set in a beautiful place, a village in Italy, and from what I saw, I liked the characters, but I was just exhausted and not feeling very good either, so I did not stay for the whole thing. But I heard really good things about it, and everyone else liked it a lot. You will want to book tickets to Italy after seeing it, though, so take that into consideration.

They DO appreciate the volunteers at
So that was my personal experience. The rest of the information was gleaned from comments by others who had seen these films. You will notice, if you have the guide, that there are many, many films about which I learned nothing whatsoever.

One film that no one seemed to like was “Where is Kyra?” “Landline” and “Rememory” got very mixed comments. Some really did not like either; others said they were fine. “Manifesto” was just strange by all reports.

Same as last year, I only heard good things about the various documentaries, so go see anything whose subject interests you. An odd one that had lots of good things said about it was “78/52” which is about the shower scene in the movie Psycho. I also heard that “Dolores” was especially good. “Water & Power” was educational but too long people said.

Everyone was said to have emerged crying from the showing of “Cries from Syria” but people said that “Last Men in Aleppo”  & “City of Ghosts” left you with some hope at the end. 

Some fiction films that people generally liked were:
The Hero
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (the major award winner)
Ingrid Goes West
To The Bone
God’s Own Country
Some films that I hope I can see later include
Beatriz at Dinner
The Big Sick
The Incredible Jessica James
Wind River
An Inconvienient Sequel

The Discovery has Robert Redford in the cast but I heard nothing whatsoever about it one way or another!

BTW I really liked the trailer this year which was shown before each film. It's called "Following the Light" and you can find it in the Sundance Film Festival channel on YouTube.

I hope this was useful information for you.

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